“I’m Jani,” the cute little six-year-old says, introducing herself. Thick curls of blond hair billow from little Jani’s head, tumbling about as she grins up at you. “I have a cat named Emily 54,” she explains, “and I’m Saturn-the-Rat’s baby sitter.” With her apparent penchant for animal camaraderie, it seems only fitting that Jani would want to be a veterinarian when she grows up. “I’m empathetic with rats,” she explains. The use of words such as “empathetic” exhibits a captivating–if not curious–intelligence for a child her age; when asked about the meaning of the word, Jani explains that, “It means you like rats.”
If what Jani describes sounds strange, it’s not merely because of her superior intellect; in fact, most of the animal friends she regularly claims to interact with don’t really exist. Though many children her age describe having imaginary friends, Jani’s interaction with dogs, birds, and other “pets” seem powerfully real to her, because she suffers from schizophrenia. “Sometimes I wonder,” Jani’s mother wonders aloud. “Is she seeing stuff that really is there, and it’s just we’re not seeing it?”
Over the years, there have been a handful of others who have asked questions similar to the honest probing of Jani’s mother, taking into consideration whether schizophrenia, as an illness, harbors more within its mystery than modern medicine has managed to explain. One of the most recent assessments of the condition appears in an article in Discover Magazine, seeking to explain schizophrenia as a virus rooted in the DNA of its victims. “Schizophrenia has long been blamed on bad genes or even bad parents,” the article reads, citing “cold mothers” (emotionally cold, rather than physically chilly) as one perceived reason for the eventual development of the disease. However, a growing group of scientists say this is hardly the case. “The real culprit, they claim, is a virus that lives entwined in every person’s DNA,” writes author Douglas Fox. However, there are lesser known alternative theories that link schizophrenia to far more than just inherently human components like DNA: in this case, it may even have to do with a psychedelic compound produced within our bodies called DMT.
One study involving theories linking DMT and schizophrenia was related in the journal Psychopharmacology, Volume 47, Number 1, in an article called “Dimethyltryptamine levels in blood of schizophrenic patients and control subjects.” In the study, dimethyltryptamine (DMT) levels were measured in the blood samples of normal “control” individuals and schizophrenic patients. “The results appear to suggest that the mean DMT level was higher in the total patient group,” the study said, although patients with acute psychosis, as well as female participants and patients suffering from “suspiciousness scores on the BPRS of 4 or over” were not found to be statistically significant. Similarly, studies were conducted in the 1950s with schizophrenia patients, during which they were administered DMT to measure similarities between the